USTA Midwest | April 21, 2017
The USTA/Midwest Section has a deep history, one that includes great players and a network of volunteers and staff that has helped shaped the sport of tennis on a national and international level.
The USTA Midwest Section (Western Tennis Association) has a rich tennis history spanning over a hundred years. It was five years before the turn of the 20th century that the Western Lawn Tennis Association was founded on July 13, 1895 when about 20 of the leading tennis players in the Midwest came together at the Chicago Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Initially, the Western Lawn Tennis Association (WLTA) governed all tennis clubs west of the Alleghenies, thus the "Western" name. However, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky broke away and created the Tri-State Tennis Association until they merged again in 1920. ADVERTISEMENT
Depending on which criterion is used, the sectional boundaries in 1895 or the current boundaries, tennis came to the Midwest via Cincinnati or Chicago. Cincinnati saw the first tennis court constructed, first tennis club, the nation's oldest league and one of the first national circuit tournaments. However, because Cincinnati was part of the Tri-State Tennis Association, to some historians Western tennis began in Chicago. The city hosted several prestigious tournaments and many of the earliest events. Chicago may claim the start of tennis in the Western Lawn Tennis Association because it hosted the first Western Tennis Championships.
As the end of the 19th century came to a close, tennis was starting to explode in many directions. In 1896 the WLTA joined the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNLTA).
On the first day of the 104th meeting of the Western Tennis Association in Toledo, Ohio, a new chapter was added to the rich history of the Association. On December 5, 1997, one hundred-two years, four months and 22 days after being formed in Chicago, the Western Tennis Association changed its name to the USTA Midwest Section. The name change officially took affect on January 1, 1998.
Today and the Future
The USTA Midwest Section’s current home, a 25,000 square foot office building funded by the Midwest Tennis & Education Foundation, was completed in June 2006. The facility houses the Section, the Foundation, and provides a permanent home for the Midwest Tennis Hall of Fame, which opened December 2, 2006. Following are key milestones that have helped create the strong organization the Section is today:
- The Chicago's South Side Tennis Club hosted events in 1922 and the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, hosted them from 1924 until 1940. The events were transferred to Kalamazoo in 1940, and the USTA Boys' 16 and 18 National Championships are still held there today in what is currently known as "the Zoo".
- The USTA Midwest Section implemented a full-time sales force in 2005 by establishing Tennis Service Representatives (TSRs) to help assess community needs, market tennis, and provide resources to help local organizations develop and increase tennis programming.
- In 2007 the Association ended the year with 1,256 USTA Organizational Members making us the No. 1 Section in the USTA at the time.
- During 2007, volunteer-based Youth Tennis Associations were established in 12 communities to organize and manage Team Tennis with an emphasis on new 10-and-under programs, resulting in close to 1,200 more junior players.
- The Association hit record membership levels in 2012, ending the fiscal year by surpassing 90,000 individual members.
- The town of Midland, Mich., was named the winner of the USTA’s “Best Tennis Town” search, the first-ever initiative designed to identify and reward the American communities—from small, rural towns to large, urban metro areas and everywhere in between—that best exemplify the passion, excitement, spirit and impact that tennis brings to the local level.
- The USTA Midwest Section was honored in 2009 as the Racquet Sports Industry Section of the Year.
CLICK HERE for a detailed history which includes key highlights about the section from each decade (1910 to the present). Learn more about how the current districts (USTA Midwest Section boundaries) were formed, as well as more about great players and leaders from the Midwest that helped shape the game.